Money doubling in northern Sierra Leone: promises and illusions of progress without effort | M Bürge | Social Anthropology

This article is about money doubling in Makeni, northern Sierra Leone. It elaborates on ordinary people’s difficulties to participate personally in a visibly growing economy and monetarised social environment. For this purpose, it takes the ethnographic case of literal money doubling: young men’s promises to physically double investors’ cash using original currency paper and chemicals. Although and because this investment opportunity retrospectively turned out to be a ‘fake’ promise, I argue that it made perfect sense in and of Makeni’s contemporary socio‐economic landscape. It epitomised a variety of practices that outwardly and alluringly promised a prosperous future and more equal redistribution of wealth, yet retrospectively proved disappointing. Money doublers assimilated local people’s aspirations and disappointments to make their performances convincing. Displaying their knowledge of the secrets to quick and sustainable wealth production, they combined narratives of what people already knew about their own failure and fellow citizens’ success with visions of future progress. Therefore, money doubling offers a powerful and multifaceted lens for illuminating patterns and transformations in Makeni’s contemporary economic, moral, social and political environment in which local people and researchers struggled to make out the truth about beneficial practices and actors.

Scroll to Top